Stay within your budget and a shopping spree won't throw you off track.
You wouldn't sabotage your budget on purpose, would you? Some of the worst budget offenders are purely unintentional, and some of them are the product of good intentions. Whether you're overspending, undersaving, or setting unattainable goals, budget mistakes can create setbacks while you're trying to get ahead.
Here are four of the biggest budget mistakes you might not know you're making, and how to make better choices in the future.
Forgetting to Document What You Spend
A budget only works if you if you plan how much you can spend, and only spend that amount or less. Large purchases aren't the only kind that can wreck the budget. Small purchases that you forget to keep track of can and do add up.
Discretionary spending is hard to keep track of because it encompasses so many things. Morning coffee and a breakfast sandwich, a newspaper, or a candy bar can add up to more than you think by the end of the month. If smaller purchases are weakening your budget's pulse, and you don't have time to track them throughout the day, try another approach. Set aside discretionary cash and only spend cash, and ask for receipts for every small purchase that you make. With Mint.com's budget app for your mobile device, you can enter a cash purchase as quickly as you can get a receipt.
Losing Budget Willpower and Falling Off the Wagon
Investopedia suggests that some situations make you more susceptible to overspending. Going out to the movies is a perfectly logical way to spend a Friday night. But in most cases, popcorn and a drink costs more than the ticket. If you're shopping and find something on sale that you hadn't planned for, your budget might suffer if you buy it anyway.
Neither of these situations is bad, and good planning can help prevent any negative effects. If you know you always want popcorn and a drink at the movies, set aside more budget money instead of hoping you can resist the buttery aroma. With a little extra set aside, you can also take advantage of the perfect black turtleneck that you find on clearance in July.
Creating an Unreasonable Budget That's Impossible Follow
Some budgets won't work no matter how committed you happened to be. An unreasonable budget is asking for failure, and that defeats the whole purpose of easing stress while managing your money.
If you can't afford to save $100 a week and also maintain the lifestyle you want, each time payday passes you'll feel less and less accomplished. This is a recipe for a failed budget, and it's completely preventable. Set reasonable goals that aren't painful. If saving a certain amount means you'll choose between milk and gas in the car, it's time to adjust your expectations and set better goals.
Cheap purchase become expensive if you have to replace them too soon.
Making Cheap Purchases That Require Replacement
"You get what you pay for," or so the old saying goes. Buying cheap doesn't always save you money. In fact, it can end up costing you more over time. Trash bags that rip, printer ink that runs, and clothing that comes apart at the seams are not bargains.
Where possible, buy the best quality that you can afford on your budget. With bigger purchases, this might mean setting money aside until you can pay cash instead of using credit. Not only will the things that you buy last longer and perform like they should, you'll also save money by not buying replacements.
Mint.com specializes in making budgets work. You can design a financial plan, set budgeting limits, predict savings, and almost anything else where your money is involved.
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